Differing responses of the diurnal cycle of land surface and air temperatures to deforestation

Liang Chen, Paul A. Dirmeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies have shown the impacts of historical land-use land-cover changes (i.e., deforestation) on hot temperature extremes; contradictory temperature responses have been found between studies using observations and climate models. However, different characterizations of surface temperature are sometimes used in the assessments: land surface skin temperature Ts is more commonly used in observation-based studies while near-surface air temperature T2m is more often used in model-based studies. The inconsistent use of temperature variables is not inconsequential, and the relationship between deforestation and various temperature changes can be entangled, which complicates comparisons between observations and model simulations. In this study, the responses in the diurnal cycle of summertime Ts and T2m to deforestation are investigated using the Community Earth System Model. For the daily maximum, opposite responses are found in Ts and T2m. Due to decreased surface roughness after deforestation, the heat at the land surface cannot be efficiently dissipated into the air, leading to a warmer surface but cooler air. For the daily minimum, strong warming is found in T2m, which exceeds daytime cooling and leads to overall warming in daily mean temperatures. After comparing several climate models, we find that the models agree in daytime land surface (Ts) warming, but different turbulent transfer characteristics produce discrepancies in T2m. Our work highlights the need to investigate the diurnal cycles of temperature responses carefully in land-cover change studies. Furthermore, consistent consideration of temperature variables should be applied in future comparisons involving observations and climate models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7067
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • General circulation models
  • Deforestation
  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Land surface model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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